As the 2012 European Beer Bloggers (EBBC) conference draws nearer, I’m readying myself for a few days of R&R. The agenda is nearing completion and looks set to be an interesting couple of days. Like most, if not all of the bloggers booked to attend the conference, I have thought about the writing opportunities that will come from meeting beer enthusiasts and bloggers, listening to the keynote speakers, drinking new beers and from a unique opportunity to take some time out of the everyday routine to focus on beer!
Friday 18th is a Night of International Beers featuring beers from smaller European breweries, giving bloggers a chance to try beer from those breweries who may not have national or international distribution, or may only brew limited runs. The inspiration for this post comes from a couple of beers I bought on a whim, bin end from the excellent Grove pub in Huddersfield. I bought these beers way before I knew I would be going to EBBC, but I hope they help show the relationship between the conference and the bloggers themselves. The beers are from a brewery I know nothing about and with the usual trawl of the internet, and with mixed results translating the brewery website, it occurred to me that I should tap knowledge from nearer the source. Bloggers are generally easy-going people and that they publish their thoughts should tell you that a speculative tweet or email for help will usually result in a friendly response. I contacted two guys who I’m aware of through Twitter and now read their blogs (when written in English!).
Teo Musso and his brewery Birrificio Le Baladin, Piozzo, Italy.
The first guest blogger to share his time and knowledge to help me put this post together is Milan based Alessio Leone, a bar manager, bike rider, drummer, beer lover and blogger at Hoppy-Hour. I have traded a few tweets with Alessio @caskcrusade and have written about him before here. Over to Alessio:
Teo Musso was born in 1964 in Carrù, a tiny village in the Langhe area, Piedmont. His family has deep agricultural roots and his father is a winemaker. He soon gets interested in beer and in 1986 he opens Le Baladin, a pub dedicated to music and beer in his hometown Piozzo, where he manages to collect 230 different beers from all over Europe. He then becomes interested in beer production by meeting and training with Jean Louis Dits from Brasserie à Vapeur and Christian Van Verbeerk who worked at Chimay.
The Baladin brewery born in 1996, together with a bunch of other Italian craft beer pioneers who gave life to the very first Italian beer movement (Birrificio Italiano, Centrale Della Birra, Birrificio Lambrate, Vecchio Birraio, Beba…). The brewery went from a 5hl brewhouse, to a 10hl one and then a 25hl one, to the actual brand new 35hl system that produces around 6000hl a year.
Teo has always thought of beer as something to go with food at a diner’s table: he uses very few hops (he says hops often can’t interact very well with food), while prefers to experiment with malts, yeasts, agings and most of all spices. His focus in the last few years has been making Baladin a fully agricultural brewery that uses homegrown malts and hops.
Below a few of his most important labels:
Named after his son and one of his first beers, a saison made with eight different spices, gentian root and chicory.
One of the most attenuated beers ever (97% attenuation), made after a study on whisky yeasts.
A barley wine that uses oxydization techniques inspired by the wine worlds of Port and Solera.
Named after his wife, it’s a tribute to Egypt and its flavours, brewed with kamut grain, mhyr and an african resin.
I read you managed to get your hands on Super and Open. Super is one of the oldest and most representative Baladin beers, his personal take on a Belgian Abbey Ale. Open was the first example of an open-source beer recipe (he published it online and invited homebrewers to brew an Open-clone): it was the first Baladin beer dedicated to pubs and not to restaurant’s tables, and it now gives name to two Open Baladin pubs in Piedmont and Rome, who only sell Italian craft beer on tap and in bottles.
As Alessio mentions above, I had bottles of Super and Open, so before reading the contribution of my second guest blogger, here are my thoughts on the beer.
Baladin Open is a 7.5% abv (plato 16,8) IPA, poured from a rather nice embossed 25cl bottle. It opens with some enthusiasm and pours a light amber colour. It has a healthy amount of fine sediment suspended in the beer, which didn’t settle out before I had finished the glass. Light carbonation, with a thin white head forming, which left nice lacing on the glass. It had aromas of honey and candy-floss, a Belgian beer quality with yeast esters you might typically find in a Saison. Not the IPA character I was expecting at all, with no resinous citrus hop aromas bursting out of the glass. First taste coated my mouth and had a hit of honey sweetness, followed quickly by warm alcohol. The bitterness does come through at the end and has a dry champagne-like finish. As I sipped the beer, it reminded me of the Buttercup honey and lemon throat lozenges, in a good way (as they say). As it warmed a little, the warming alcohol quality took over. A really smooth, tasty beer, bravo!
Baladin Super is an 8% abv (plato 18,5) Belgian Strong Ale, contained in an equally attractive 25cl bottle. It poured a dark amber/red and as with the Open, it had a fine sediment suspended in the beer once poured into the glass. No carbonation to speak of and a thin soapy head quickly dissipated. The aroma was hiding in this beer and needed a good swirl in the glass, which released some interesting candy and sweet fruit aromas. It was medium bodied as with the Open, but didn’t coat the mouth in the same way. It had great syrup sweetness and again the fruit coming through, with apricot and subtle banana notes. I could be way off here, but I thought it also had a slight sourness, but not really enough to get past the sweetness. As you’d expect from a big Belgian beer, it had a warming alcohol finish. I enjoyed this one for a good while, as the lasting flavours did not rush you into taking frequent sips and as I wanted to enjoy a beer that I won’t get to try again any time soon.
The second blogger I contacted while writing this piece was Will Glass who describes himself as a writer and entrepreneur. Will is based in Italy’s Piedmont region where he draws most of his inspiration for his blog Italy Brews. Will can be found on Twitter @ItalyBrews. When I asked Alessio and Will to contribute I gave them the same brief, that I was writing a piece on Le Baladin and could they write something about the brewery, the history and the beer. When I received Will’s response I wasn’t quite sure how to use the content, but on reflection I am so pleased that I didn’t receive two similar responses. Alessio set the scene, introduced Teo Musso and his brewery’s influence and relevance in the international beer scene. Read on to see what Will drew from my request for information, but I think he encapsulates rather nicely what beer is all about, why we enjoy it so much and why we just have to write about it.
As an avid “beer traveler” I find my inner peace through chance meetings with the people behind the breweries and brew pubs we visit. Yes, we do typically plan in advance but the visits that happen organically are extremely special. During our recent visit to the small mountain village of Vernante we happened upon Birrificio Troll and Alberto Canavese, Troll’s Brew Master. The welcoming aroma and warmth of the wood burning fire created the perfect mountain cabin retreat for us to kick up our heals and ponder our recent 6 hour hike along the Via di Tèit trail through the Maritime Alps; straddling the border of France and Italy. Our trek was a hiker’s delight featuring high mountain passes scattered with ruins of small farming villages, streams from mountain snow run off, rolling green hills, snow capped peaks and bright colored spring flowers & Alpine herbs. We’d built up quite a thirst and the brew pub was the perfect ending to our voyage. Troll came into being in 2003 and currently produces 10 beer styles, each in 75cl bottles. The perfect seasonal beer for our visit was Febbre Alta (High Fever), Troll’s birra di primavera (beer of spring) which is brewed with local mountain flowers, herbs and spices. Italy’s Associazione Unionbirrai “Beer of the Year” in 2005, Febbre Alta features an amber color, floral nose and sweet herbal palate thanks to the locally cultivated mountain flowers and herbs used during the brewing process. And at 8.7% alcohol this Italian artisanal microbrew gave me quite a fever after a couple glasses…la dolce vita!
Not to cloud the post with the C-word, but ‘craft’ fits comfortably here. The concept, the 15 plus year project, the bottles, the design, the beer and a beer lovers ethos. I’m so glad I bought the bottles of Baladin beer at the end of great night with friends, and that I stashed them in my cupboard, and that I managed to save them long enough for them to be drunk in the moment. Thank you to Alessio and Will for taking part, and I look forward to meeting Alessio at the conference in a few weeks time.
My internet searching wasn’t in vain either and here are some interesting and varied pieces on Le Baladin from a few familiar faces to me, and if you join us in a few weeks time then you will mostly get to meet them. Mark Dredge Pencil & Spoon, Leigh Linley The Good Stuff, and a couple of rather nice video reports on location in Open Baladin, Rome by Zak Avery (Are You Tasting the Pith) and Rob Derbyshire (HopZine). Also a piece written back in 2009 by The Beer Connoisseur Online,
A note from the organisers:
Have you given any thought to joining us in Leeds for this year’s conference? We are expecting at least 100 bloggers to be in attendance (you can see who’s already signed up here) and if you haven’t already, register today! You can follow the event organisers on Twitter @beerbloggers and #EBBC12.